Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 116, a lyrical interweaving of thanksgiving and praise.

I love this beautiful psalm which expresses the heart’s overwhelming gratitude for the whole mystery of one’s life.

How shall I make a return to the LORD
    for all the good God has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
    and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:12-13

The gratitude is so profound
that we must call on the Holy Spirit
to understand our awed silence
and to pray within us.


This prayer always comes to my mind when one of our Sisters dies. The witness of her life, remembered in our funeral rituals, always stirs me to deeper faith and gratitude.

Precious in your eyes, O LORD
    is the death of your faithful one,
your servant, who has freely
    and lovingly served you.
To you she has offered the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and called upon your name, O LORD.
Her vows to the LORD she has paid
    in the presence of all your people.

Psalm 116: 15-18

It is with perfect timing that this sacred psalm comes up in Friday’s liturgy. At the Motherhouse in Plainfield,NJ, a wonderful Sister of Mercy is laid to rest today – Sister Diane Szubrowski. Her vows to the Lord she has paid – with faith and mercy. May she rest in Glory!


Poetry: Grateful – Thomas Merton

To be grateful
is to recognize
the love of God
in everything.

Music: My Vows to the Lord – John Michael Talbot (lyrics below

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

In the presence of all His people

For precious in the eyes of the Lord

Is the sacrifice of love

Is the sacrifice of love

How shall I make a return

For all the good He has done for me

The cup of salvation I will take up

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

Your servant am I

Your handmaid’s son

Consecrated to the Lord

I will offer a sacrifice

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

How shall I make a return

For all the good He has done for me

The cup of salvation I will take up

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

In the sacrifice of love

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, July 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 124 which is a raw remembering of how bad things could have been without God’s help.

The psalm opens with these lines:

Had not the LORD been with us,
let Israel say,
Had not the LORD been with us,
when all rose against us,
Then we would have been swallowed alive,
for fury blazed against us.

Psalm 124: 1-3

Have you been there? What flares up to swallow your life, your hope, can wear many disguises: 

 

or the many forms of hunger and dying.


The psalm calls us to remember these things for two reasons:

  1. so that we don’t get caught again
  2. and that if – sadly – we do, we remember who freed us

We were rescued like a bird 
    from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare, 
    and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124: 7-8

The release from such snares
does not return us to the way things were.
There will be
wounds and wisdom
to change us.
It depends on us which we choose to cherish.

“Re-membering” ourselves, pulling our new selves together in God, releases us to fuller, deeper life.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.

… so surely that Omnipotent God can heal and remake us.

Remember, this and a few other of my images have been set beautifully into cards by Sister Judy Ward, RSM.
You can contact her at

Poetry: The Fowler by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1868-1962)

A wild bird filled the morning air 
With dewy-hearted song; 
I took it in a golden snare 
Of meshes close and strong. 
But where is now the song I heard? 
For all my cunning art, 
I who would house a singing bird 
Have caged a broken heart.

Music: Peter Kater – Wings

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

April 24, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 116. Today’s verses are such a lovely prayer of recognition and thanksgiving for God’s goodness.

Praying with this phrase this morning, I realized that there is no adequate answer to the psalmist’s question. We could never repay the munificence of God.

What we can do is to allow God’s Lavish Mercy to flow through our lives returning praise for God’s love. 

My vows to the LORD I will pay
    in the presence of all his people.
Precious in your eyes, O Lord,
    is the living and dying of your faithful ones.

Psalm 116: 14-15

All that we are and have, in life and death,
is through God’s graciousness.
Living out of that understanding changes everything.


Poetry: Little Flute- Tagore

You have made me endless, 
such is Your pleasure. 
This frail vessel You empty again and again, 
and fill it ever with fresh life. 
This little flute of a reed 
You have carried over hills and dales, 
and have breathed through it 
melodies eternally new. 
At the immortal touch of Your hands,
my little heart loses its limits in joy 
and gives birth to utterance ineffable. 
Your infinite gifts come to me 
only on these very small hands of mine. 
Ages pass, and still You pour, 
and still there is room to fill.

Music: Beautiful Dream – Zamfir

Holy Saturday 2021

April 3, 2021

Alternate Reading from Walter Brueggemann 

Today, in Mercy, we join Mary and the disciples as they deal with Christ’s death. No doubt, the range of emotions among them was as great as it would be among any group or family losing someone they dearly loved.

They had entered, with heart-wrenching drama, into a period of bereavement over the loss of Jesus. Doubt, hope, loss, fear, sadness and remembered joy vied for each of their hearts. They comforted one another and tried to understand each other’s handling of their terrible shared bereavement.

They did just what we all do as families, friends and communities when our beloved dies.

But ultimately, our particular bereavement belongs to us alone, woven from the many experiences we have had with the person who has died. These are personal and indescribable, as is the character of our pain and loss.

Do not be afraid of your bereavement.  It is a gift of love.

Holy Saturday, like bereavement, is a time of infrangible silence. No matter how many “whys” we throw heavenward, no answer comes. It is a time to test what Love has meant to us and, even as it seems to leave us, how it will live in us.

As we pray today with the bereaved Mother and disciples, let us fold all our bereavements into their love.  We already know the joyful end to the story, so let us pray today with honesty but also with unconquerable hope that we will live and love again.

Music: Goodbye, Old Friend – Sean Clive

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

April 2, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31, the prayer of one who will not be shaken from faith in God.

For all my foes I am an object of reproach,
    a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends;
    they who see me abroad flee from me.
I am forgotten like the unremembered dead;
    I am like a dish that is broken.
But my trust is in you, O LORD;
    I say, “You are my God.
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me
    from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.”

Psalm 31: 12-13

What is there to say about the Good Friday journey of Jesus? It may be that we can only walk beside him in loving, heart-broken silence.

There are times in our lives when we will be called to walk like this beside others in loving and merciful ministry.

There may be times when others are called to walk with us in such a way.

Let these times inform our prayer today.

Good Friday is the time we gather strength and compassionate understanding from Jesus to help us, in his Name, be Mercy in the world.


Poetry: From “The Dream of the Rood”, one of the Christian poems in the corpus of Old English literature and an example of the genre of dream poetry. Like most Old English poetry, it is written in alliterative verse. Rood is from the Old English word rōd ‘pole’, or more specifically ‘crucifix’. Preserved in the 10th-century Vercelli Book, the poem may be as old as the 8th-century Ruthwell Cross, and is considered as one of the oldest works of Old English literature.

The Rood (cross of Christ) speaks:

“It was long past – I still remember it – 
That I was cut down at the copse’s end,
Moved from my root. Strong enemies there took me,
Told me to hold aloft their criminals,
Made me a spectacle. Men carried me
Upon their shoulders, set me on a hill,
A host of enemies there fastened me.

“And then I saw the Lord of all mankind
Hasten with eager zeal that He might mount
Upon me. I durst not against God’s word
Bend down or break, when I saw tremble all
The surface of the earth. Although I might
Have struck down all the foes, yet stood I fast.

“Then the young hero (who was God almighty)
Got ready, resolute and strong in heart.
He climbed onto the lofty gallows-tree,
Bold in the sight of many watching men,
When He intended to redeem mankind.

I trembled as the warrior embraced me.
But still I dared not bend down to the earth,
Fall to the ground. Upright I had to stand.

“A rood I was raised up; and I held high 
The noble King, the Lord of heaven above.
I dared not stoop. They pierced me with dark nails;
The scars can still be clearly seen on me,
The open wounds of malice. Yet might I
Not harm them. They reviled us both together.
I was made wet all over with the blood
Which poured out from his side, after He had 
Sent forth His spirit. And I underwent
Full many a dire experience on that hill.

I saw the God of hosts stretched grimly out.
Darkness covered the Ruler’s corpse with clouds
His shining beauty; shadows passed across,
Black in the darkness. All creation wept,
Bewailed the King’s death; Christ was on the cross….

“Now you may understand, dear warrior,
That I have suffered deeds of wicked men
And grievous sorrows. Now the time has come
That far and wide on earth men honor me,
And all this great and glorious creation,
And to this beacon offers prayers. On me
The Son of God once suffered; therefore now
I tower mighty underneath the heavens,
And I may heal all those in awe of me.
Once I became the cruelest of tortures,
Most hateful to all nations, till the time
I opened the right way of life for men.”

Music: Pie Jesu – Michael Hoppé

Psalm 71: A Long Trust

Tuesday of Holy Week

March 30, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 71, a prayer of yielding and confident faith.

Often thought to be the prayer of an aging David, Psalm 71 recalls a long and steady relationship with God. Even as his youthful vigor wanes, the psalmist declares that his true strength rests in God’s faithfulness.

For you are my hope, O LORD;
    my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
    from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
    day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
    and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.

Psalm 71: 15-17
King David as an Old Man – Rembrandt

David witnesses to a powerful faith, one that we all might cherish in our human diminishments. It is hard to lose things in our life – youth, health, relationships, reputation, enthusiasm, hope, direction, security. But all of us face at least some of these challenges at some time in our lives.


Judas Iscariot (right), retiring from the Last Supper,
painting by Carl Bloch, late 19th century

In our Gospel today, Jesus acknowledges the loss of trust in a close disciple:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.

John 13:21-22

That betrayal is a sign to Jesus that the great dream of his earthly ministry is coming to an ignominious close when even those dearest to him slip into betrayal and denial.


What is it that holds Jesus together, heart and soul riveted on the Father’s Will, as he moves through these heart-wrenching days.

Jesus is the living sacrament of complete obedience and union with God. Every choice of his life has brought him to a readiness for this final and supreme act of trusting love. Like the psalmist today, Jesus’s whole life proclaims:

I will always hope in you
and add to all your praise.
My mouth shall proclaim your just deeds,
day after day your acts of deliverance,
though I cannot number them all.i
I will speak of the mighty works of the Lord;
O GOD, I will tell of your singular justice.
God, you have taught me from my youth;
to this day I proclaim your wondrous deeds.

Psalm 71: 14-17

As we accompany Jesus today, let us pray this psalm with him, asking for an ever-deepening faith, hope, and love.


Poetry: Jesus Weeps – Malcolm Guite

Jesus comes near and he beholds the city
And looks on us with tears in his eyes,
And wells of mercy, streams of love and pity
Flow from the fountain whence all things arise.
He loved us into life and longs to gather
And meet with his beloved face to face
How often has he called, a careful mother,
And wept for our refusals of his grace,
Wept for a world that, weary with its weeping,
Benumbed and stumbling, turns the other way,
Fatigued compassion is already sleeping
Whilst her worst nightmares stalk the light of day.
But we might waken yet, and face those fears,
If we could see ourselves through Jesus’ tears.

Music: Long Ago – Michael Hoppé, Tom Wheater, Michael Tillman

A Psalm from Jeremiah

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

March 27, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray a responsorial from the Book of Jeremiah:

The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards the flock.

The psalm today, with the first reading, brings assurance that God remains with us through suffering and will heal and make us whole again.

That reassurance is needed as we hear the Gospel’s tone darken. After the raising of Lazarus, the whole nation waits to see what will happen to Jesus as Passover nears.


I think, in some ways, impending doom is almost worse than doom itself. Picture the part in a movie where the attacker waits in the dark while the victim tiptoes into lurking danger.

That frightening music they always play! Sometimes the tension heightens to the point that I have to hit the mute or close my eyes!


Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, a 1617 oil painting by Flemish Baroque painter Anthony van Dyck

This is what all surrounding Jerusalem felt like in today’s Gospel. The dark edge of evil hangs in inevitable threat.

But for Jesus, who walked in the hidden light of the Father, the moment brought more than threatening shadows. It was time to fulfill an ancient promise. It was time to offer the greatest act of Love.

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
    proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
    he guards them as a shepherd his flock.
The LORD shall ransom Jacob,
    he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror.

Jeremiah 31: 10-12

As Jesus went off alone to Ephraim to prepare his heart and soul for this ultimate fulfillment, perhaps a prayer from Jeremiah strengthened him, a remembered promise from Ezekiel focused him.

Let us pray with Jesus today as he asks the Father to “shepherd” him. With Jesus, may we find our own strengths and understandings in these ancient prophets.


Poetry: Redemption by George Herbert (1593-1633)who was a Welsh-born poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. His poetry is associated with the writings of the metaphysical poets, and he is recognised as “one of the foremost British devotional lyricists.”

Having been tenant long to a rich lord, 
    Not thriving, I resolvèd to be bold, 
    And make a suit unto him, to afford 
A new small-rented lease, and cancel th’ old. 

In heaven at his manor I him sought; 
    They told me there that he was lately gone 
    About some land, which he had dearly bought 
Long since on earth, to take possessiòn. 

I straight returned, and knowing his great birth, 
    Sought him accordingly in great resorts; 
    In cities, theaters, gardens, parks, and courts; 

At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth 
    Of thieves and murderers; there I him espied, 
    Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, and died.

Music: Like a Shepherd – St. Louis Jesuits

Psalm 81: Through the Storm

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

March 12, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 81, another call to listen to God’s Word in order to find the fullness of life:

If only my people would hear me,
    and Israel walk in my ways,
I would feed them with the best of wheat,
    and with honey from the rock I would fill them.


But honestly, isn’t it hard to listen sometimes. Even the psalm suggests that there are such loud, distracting events in our lives that we sometimes can’t hear that Word:

In distress you called, and I rescued you.
 Unseen, I answered you in thunder;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear, my people, and I will admonish you;
    O Israel, will you not hear me?


The psalm shows us that God’s deepest Word
comes to us in thunder, in storm.
It is a truth Jesus embraced on Calvary.
It is a truth our lives will sometimes require of us.


This morning my prayer is filled with thoughts of my friend whose young daughter died last week. When even I, who never met Emily, can feel the overwhelming sadness of her untimely death, what unbearable storm must surround her parents! How can they hear the word of faith in the tumult?


Many years ago, I attended an evening event on the other side of my state. During the ceremony, a tornado touched down very nearby. After several frightening hours, I was able to travel back to my hotel, about five miles away.

But the roads were blocked with debris. The streets lights and signs had been blown down. And I was completely unfamiliar with the vicinity. I did eventually make it “home” to the hotel, but it wasn’t the same as I had left it. Part of the roof lay across the street. The window in my room had been fractured and boarded up.

For me, the memory is a parable about suffering. When the storm comes, we may pass through it, but we are not unchanged. Our world is not unchanged.

Jesus was not unchanged by Good Friday and Easter Sunday. By hearing God’s Word in the storm, Jesus was transformed. This is the legacy of faith Christ has given us in the Paschal Mystery. May it strengthen, heal, and transform us this Lent. May it comfort all those who so dearly love Emily.


Poetry: The Man Watching  by Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Robert Bly

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on 
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book, 
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny! 
What fights with us is so great. 
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm, 
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things, 
and the triumph itself makes us small. 
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us. 
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews 
grew long like metal strings, 
he felt them under his fingers 
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel 
(who often simply declined the fight) 
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand, 
that kneaded him as if to change his shape. 
Winning does not tempt that man. 
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, 
by constantly greater beings.


Music: Moonlight Sonata in a Thunderstorm 

Psalm 128: Awesome Blessing!

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 15, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128 which is used this Sunday to connect a series of readings about “fruitfulness” and its eternal endurance.


Our readings today intensify a tone evident in recent weeks – a theme I call “end of the line warnings”. Just two weeks out from Advent, and the end of the 2020 Liturgical Year, we have our annual confrontation with “The End Times”.

I have never enjoyed these readings. They actually scared me as a child, and they don’t make me too carefree even now. The only thing that makes them tolerable is that they herald the coming of Advent, a favorite time for hope-filled readings. 


  • But to get to those Advent scriptural delights, we have to face:
  • sudden disaster like labor pains
  • darkness like a thief in the night
  • alert and sober sleeplessness
  • and, if we’re not vigilant, a potential toss into the darkness outside where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

In the midst of these terror-producing readings, Psalm 128 can be like a calming cup of camomile tea. It reminds us – serenely, yet directly – of enduring blessings and how we secure them.

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in the Lord’s ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.


Today’s readings are sprinkled with two usually contrasting words: fear and blessing. However, our prayer may lead us to realize that these actions can be complementary from a spiritual perspective.

When we live in awe, or holy fear,  before God’s Presence and Power, our life is blessed with fruitful – just and merciful – relationships with all Creation, including an anticipated joy in our eternal home. As Christine Robinson transliterates Psalm 128:

You are blessed, who know God’s grace
and who follow the Way of Life.
Happiness and contentment are yours.
Your home is a place of growth and love.
Your city a better place for your life in it.
Your life of faithful work, prayerful reflection,and shared love
blesses those around you with life and peace.

…and you can look forward with joy to your continuing eternal life with God and God’s beloved family.


Poetry: To Heaven by Ben Johnson who is among the best-known writers and theorists of English Renaissance literature, second in reputation only to Shakespeare. A prolific dramatist and a man of letters highly learned in the classics, he profoundly influenced the Augustan age through his emphasis on the precepts of Horace, Aristotle, and other classical Greek and Latin thinkers.

Good and great God, can I not think of thee 
But it must straight my melancholy be? 
Is it interpreted in me disease 
That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease? 
Oh be thou witness, that the reins dost know 
And hearts of all, if I be sad for show, 
And judge me after; if I dare pretend 
To ought but grace or aim at other end. 
As thou art all, so be thou all to me, 
First, midst, and last, converted one, and three; 
My faith, my hope, my love; and in this state 
My judge, my witness, and my advocate. 
Where have I been this while exil'd from thee? 
And whither rap'd, now thou but stoop'st to me? 
Dwell, dwell here still. O, being everywhere, 
How can I doubt to find thee ever here? 
I know my state, both full of shame and scorn, 
Conceiv'd in sin, and unto labour borne, 
Standing with fear, and must with horror fall, 
And destin'd unto judgment, after all. 
I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground 
Upon my flesh t' inflict another wound. 
Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death 
With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath 
Of discontent; or that these prayers be 
For weariness of life, not love of thee. 

Music: Benedictus – Karl Jenkins

Psalm 23: Light through the Dark

 The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed(All Souls)

November 2, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we commemorate the Holy Souls, a remembrance inextricably tied to yesterday’s celebration of All Saints. It is as if yesterday we prayed in the moon’s full light. Today, we pray on its shadow side.


We pray with Psalm 23, a psalm we have prayed scores of times at the funeral Masses of beloved family and friends. 

Just last month, we prayed it with a lighter tone, focusing on the sunlit field and restful waters.


Today, on this tender feast, we pray this psalm in its grey tones, with a lingering sense of bereavement and perhaps some uncertainty about afterlife’s mysteries.

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; 
May the angels lead you into paradise;
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, 
may the martyrs receive you at your arrival
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem. 
and lead you to the holy city Jerusalem.
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, 
May choirs of angels receive you 
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere 
and with Lazarus, once poor,
æternam habeas requiem.
may you have eternal rest.


The popular theology – or more clearly “devotionalism”- surrounding All Souls Day has always challenged me. There is a discomfort with the concept of purgatory, and a time of temporal punishment for faithful but imperfect souls. I have always felt that there is enough suffering in this life to redeem us from the sinfulness we struggle with.

Our modern ideas of purgatory and hell still limp under concepts left over from the Middle Ages – fire, brimstone, and devils with pitch forks. My memory still shivers with images from my grade school choir when, at every funeral Mass, we sang the heavy tones of the Dies Irae with a priest clothed in black vestments.


Post-Vatican II theology has infused hope into that devotional gloom. It has refocused us on the truth informing our understanding of death so beautifully described in our reading from Wisdom:

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.

Wisdom 3:1-3

So what might be a reflective understanding of the core theology underlying this important day? The truth is that any theology is imperfect, and we do our best to imagine what is beyond our imagination.

But here are some ideas or beliefs that help my prayer:

  • our souls endure beyond physical death since they are the Breath of God
  • Christ has already paid the price of our sins and redeemed us on the Cross
  • still, we never lose our free will either in life or in death
  • we are free to choose for God or against God
  • some choose total alienation (popularly conceptualized as “hell”)
  • some choose union, but their choices are fragmented and weak at times, casting shadows over our wholeness or holiness 
  • those weak fragmentations may be healed in us even after death (purgatory) until the fullness of God’s Grace “dawns” on us and within us
  • that healing can be fostered by our prayer for one another throughout the Communion of Saints

All Souls Day is the celebration of that prayer and that healing
for those who have gone before us.
Today, we embrace all those beloved souls in our prayer,
and join the prayer of the whole Church for them.


Poetry: Comfort by Christine Robinson

I am a child of God
  I have everything I need.
This beautiful earth feeds my body.
  You feed my soul.

You guide me in the ways of Life,
  for You are Life.
And though I will walk through dark places, and eventually to death,
  I need never be afraid.

For You are with me always,
  In You I can find comfort.
With Your help, I can face whatever comes.
  
My joy overflows.
Your goodness and blessing will be with me
  Every day of my life -- and forever.

Music: Bach: Cantata No. 112, Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt